Election fever heats up: parties to battle in TV debates

Russia’s pre-election agitation campaign has officially kicked off. Seven registered political parties will be battling for votes that will open the door to the parliament’s lower house, the State Duma.

The campaign will run from 5 November till midnight on December 3, followed by a so-called day of silence before the election.

The four parties currently represented in the parliament – the majority United Russia, the Communist Party, Liberal Democrats and Fair Russia – will use the time to try to increase their supporters’ camp and keep their seats in the Duma.

The three other registered parties – Democratic Party Yabloko, the Right Cause, and Patriots of Russia – have yet to convince enough voters to cast their ballots for them to overcome the 7 per cent threshold. Under the new amendments to the election law, however, parties that gain between 5 and 6 per cent will still get one seat, and those with more than 6 per cent will have two mandates in the 450-seat lower house.

All the parties are entitled to one hour of free airtime on each of the four state TV channels and of the four radio stations. By law, half of that time can be used for debates with political rivals, and the other half for airing campaign videos. To distribute broadcasting times, the parties drew lots on Monday.

This year, for the first time since its creation in 2001, United Russia will be participating in the televised debates. However, President Dmitry Medvedev, who heads the party’s election list, will not take part in the TV duels.

The parties are also allowed to campaign on a commercial basis using their electoral funds’ money.Some 31 TV channels and radio stations, 137 printed editions and 26 internet editions have offered candidates their cooperation for this, member of the Central Election Commission Maya Grishina said, cited by Itar-Tass.

Earlier, places on the ballot paper were distributed between parties through a lottery. Fair Russia will be listed first, which the party members consider quite symbolic. United Russia is sixth, followed by the Right Cause.

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